Friday, March 18, 2005

Daddy's Little Girl (Part I)

When I was little, my family lived in a small, quaint town just outside of Waterloo, Iowa. I spent the first five years of my life knowing one quiet street in middle America that was as wholesome as apple pie. I never lost my way; I could just look down the street and find our yellow house, the one with the larger than life picture window on the second floor. My dad sold his motorcycle to afford the down payment on that house.

In my bedroom, the yellow scheme continued. I remember my old bedspread, large, comfy, and yellow with little blue flowers and white lace ruffles. In one corner stood a life-sized Big Bird. I found out later in life that yellow is my dad's favorite color.

I had a large toy chest, filled with Barbies and Barbie clothes. On both sides of my family there were girls, but all of my female cousins were at least ten years older than me. I received many hand-me-downs of dolls and girl appropriate toys. It accounted for a large Barbie collection.

During the first couple years of my life, my dad worked construction and played on a traveling hockey league. If Iowa had a professional team, my dad would have been a part of it. He spent many nights out on the road, traveling with the team to a game. His days home were filled with work and he picked up many jobs to help our family make it. My mom also worked, yet she had a regular hours job, not much variance in the work schedule. When they were both working, I would be watched by four different aunts or even my mom's best friend, Joni.

My dad worked so much that I barely knew who he was. What I did know was that when he was gone, I could sleep in Mom's bed with her (a nice, heated water bed) and the dog. When Dad was home, I had to sleep in my room, alone and scared by the phrase, "Don't let the bed bugs bite*."

I didn't like the fact this man got so much of my mom's attention. Who was he to take my mom and my buddy (the dog) away from me? One day, when I was about three-years old, I stood at the end of the hallway and stuck my tongue out at my father. His reaction was just, he walked over to me and gently tapped the side of my face and told me to never do that again.

I was furious! How DARE he!?! Being the defiant child that I quickly grew out of, I stomped over to where my mom was sitting. I turned towards her, stared her in the eyes, and pointed at him, angrier than I had ever been before and said, "HE hit me!"

My mom laughed a bit. Then she told me, "He can do that. HE, as you put it, is your father."

I looked back at this man that I barely knew and furrowed my brow. That explained everything. Then I broke into a smile and played games for the rest of the evening.

I never thought anyone else was my father, I just didn't realize I had one. This is the mind of a child. The facts of life, you know, the birds and the bees, are just not born with someone. There is a learning process.

Once I knew he was my daddy, I started to have fun with him. He would pretend to be Fozzy Bear from the Muppets. He taught me how to play poker with pennies and when he got laid off, he stayed home with me and I got to bond with him.

One morning, my mom came home from work (she was working three jobs at this time, two waitressing/bartending jobs at local bars and an overnight shift at a plant that is for her current employer). I was wandering around, asking for "Aqua" (Electric Company was a good show for children) and she asked me, "What did you and Daddy do last night?"

I looked her square in the eyes and told her, "We watched 'Poker Guys'."

She paused, a bit confused, and then asked me for clarification. "What is 'Poker Guys'?"

"A scary nuvie, duh!" I just couldn't figure out why Mom didn't understand Poker Guys.

The next thing I heard was, "Terry, why are you letting our four-year old watch horror movies?" (The movie was Poltergeist).

This was not the first time someone got into hot water for letting me watch a scary 'nuvie'. My aunt and cousins were watching "The Exorcist once when I was just a little child and they had thought I was asleep on the couch. They believed it until Linda Blair's head spun around and pea soup came out of her mouth and they heard me say, "Icky!" The movie was quickly turned off.

In the next few nights, I am planning on writing about different memories of my dad, my mom, and my early childhood in Iowa. I'll explain how I learned to bond with my dad.


*To this day, I can still remember the vivid nightmare I had as a child about bed bugs. They were trying to eat me! I can remember about three nightmares of my life and of course, the one about bugs is the most vivid. Stupid sayings.